Built in 1898 to treat victims of tuberculosis from the fast-expanding and overcrowded German capital, the vast sanatorium-turned-military hospital of Beelitz Heilstäetten outside of Berlin is now a site of compulsive, obsessive pilgrimage for urban explorers and photographers, ghost hunters, and intrepid pornographers.
In The Phantom Sanatorium, over sixty full-color photographs and an accompanying exploratory text by Catherine Lupton capture glimpses of the eerie abandoned spaces and derelict splendor of Beelitz Heilstäetten. Everywhere inside, from its peeling wards, echoing corridors, and disintegrating stairways that lead to nowhere to the famous bathhouse and gymnasium, there is evidence of the inexorable power of decay—in full color.
Lupton illuminates the dark and fascinating history of Beelitz Heilstäetten and its famous and notorious residents. When it was a military hospital during the First World War, Adolf Hitler was among the many wounded soldiers who recuperated there. And after the Second World War, Soviet occupation forces turned it into a forbidden zone that housed the main hospital for Soviet troops and GDR politicians. As Soviet authority collapsed in 1989, the hospital was terrorized by serial killer Wolfgang Schmidt, "The Beast of Beelitz," who draped his victims’ corpses in pink lingerie. Its last famous convalescent, in 1990, was the deposed East German leader Erich Honecker.
Continually informed by the fascinating and macabre history of these halls, Lupton’s visual and textual explorations form a new modus for resurrecting the most derelict, accursed, and haunted hospitals and madhouses of Europe.